Table of contents

Style of writing

The language used in the memoir excerpt “By Any Other Name” by Santha Rama Rau highlights the condescending attitude of the school’s British staff towards Indian children. For example, when the headmistress talks to Santha and Premila, she uses rhetorical questions that show that she looks down on the girls and their Indian heritage:

‘Suppose we give you pretty English names. Wouldn’t that be more jolly? Let’s see, now—Pamela for you, I think.’ She shrugged in a baffled way at my sister. ‘That’s as close as I can get. And for you,’ she said to me, how about Cynthia? Isn’t that nice?’ 

Furthermore, both the headmistress and Santha’s teacher condescendingly call Santha “dear”: “ ‘Now, dear, tell the class your name.’ ” As well as this, the teacher constantly uses the discourse marker “now” in a patronizing way. In general, the school staff uses a patronizing tone that shows that they, as British occupants, feel superior to the Indian population. 

The narrative introduces several idioms and expressions that point to the opinion the girls’ mother has about the British. For example, the mother believes that “you can bury a dog’s tail for seven years and it still comes out curly.” She also believes that “you can take a Britisher away from his home for a lifetime and he still remains insular.” These expressions highlight her belief that pe...

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